Association football started in Oulton in 1879 when the first club was formed. Its leading light and star player was Ernest Boothroyd, the son of a power loom turner from Earlsheaton near Dewsbury. After going to college in York he had been appointed at the age of 19 to be the headmaster of Oulton St. John’s School in 1877. Two years later in early 1879 he helped form and played for the Harmonic team at Rothwell and the Oulton club followed in September at the start of the new season.
Both teams were amongst the earliest in the West Riding starting years before the likes of Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Bradford City and it’s clear from newspaper match reports that for a time in the 1880s Oulton was thought of as the Leeds team.
The oldest member of the first team was the goalkeeper, 26 year old stonemason John Bradley. The fullbacks were miller’s son Thomas Jackson, 19, and Richard Jowitt, 19, a gardener and domestic servant.
Then came three halfbacks: quarry owner’s son Silas Abbey, 17; William Hutchinson, 19, a gardener who was an expert thrower of the ball; and Fred Mirfin, 18, a pupil teacher at Oulton school who later became a clerk. Upfront were the captain Ernest Boothroyd, 21; Tom West, 19, a commercial traveller in fancy drapery, the son of a draper and grocer who had a shop next to the Three Horse Shoes; George Mirfin Abbey, 18, Silas Abbey’s older brother who later became a traveller for Bentley’s brewery; and Arthur Gosney and Tom Umpleby.
In those early years they played against such teams as Sheffield Walkley, Sheffield Heeley, Armitage Bridge, Hull Blue Star, and Rawmarsh. Their first home game against Sheffield Walkley in December 1881 was a 2 – 2 draw with “some very good play shown by both sides” according to the Sheffield Independent. Walkley had a goal disallowed after Oulton appealed for offside.
Boothroyd was “very fast” and he along with Jowitt, Hutchinson, and a new player, J. Cobb, all “played very well indeed.” Pupil teacher Richard Harrand, the son of the farm bailiff for the Calverley estate who lived at Hollin Hall, was the new goalie. In a home cup tie they lost against Sheffield Wednesday but the following year they reached the final of the cup against Redcar losing by the only goal.
Another team, Oulton Victoria, was formed in the early 1880s. They appear to have had younger players than the original team and in January 1882 they beat Hunslet Wesleyan Juniors 2 – 0 in a league match. On Saturday 18 February 1882 Victoria beat Meanwood Road 4 – 1 at home whilst the Oulton (Association) team were away at Sheffield Walkley losing 7 – 2. In a local derby just after Christmas 1883 Victoria beat the Association team two nil.
A distastrous game for the senior Oulton team in those early years was away at Rotherham’s Clifton Lane ground in October 1883 in which they were thrashed 10 – 0. “A grand corner by Musson enabled Lampard to score first goal for the home team, which put the men on their mettle. Boothroyd, Eggington, and Abbey made good headway to the home quarters until confronted by Bone, who stopped their progress in good style,” reported the Sheffield Telegraph.
The early teams seem to have broken up just over 10 years after they started with Ernest Boothroyd going on to help form Oulton St. John’s Associated Football Club in January 1892.
They played on land which had been tenanted by farmer Thomas Murtland close to the present day sports pitches on Methley Lane. The first colours were navy blue with an amber sash which was later changed to navy and light blue. Club officials included the Oulton vicar Alfred Green-Price, the incumbent from 1894 to 1898, joiner Thomas Hurdus and land agent Edward Haslegrave.
In 1901 another team, Oulton Roseville, was formed after a group of youths got together frustrated at not being able to play in the St. John’s senior team. They managed to get a farmer to give them permission to play in a field at Sugar Hills and with money collected in the village they bought a practise ball, a match ball and an inflator but didn’t raise enough to buy goal posts and crossbars.
Remembering their efforts in 1936 miner Bob Forrest said four of them decided, under the cover of darkness, to chop down saplings in one of the plantations on the Calverley estate. Unfortunately they were spotted by another lad who they’d rejected for their team and he blabbed to the woodman.
They were then summonsed to appear at what Bob Forrest described as the recognised district “juvenile court” which was probably run by the land agent John Farrer. In a fatherly way he told them off for chopping down the trees but also said he would provide “everything necessary to start a football club on a sound footing including goal posts set up in an ideal field.” He even arranged for a manager who Bob described as the “dear old” Rev. Ernest Huntington Dykes, Vicar of Oulton from 1898 to 1903.
WALKLEY v. LEEDS (OULTON). Sheffield Independent, Monday16 April 1883.
The above interesting encounter was played on Saturday afternoon, at the Queen’s Ground, Sheffield, before a fair concourse of spectators. The weather was very fine, it being, if anything, a trifle too hot for football. The teams did not play exactly as advertised, J. W. Bentley, F. Lee, aud D. Willey taking the places of L. Bentley, J. Hudson, and W. Mosforth, for Walkley, whilst Shipham and Hirst were substituted in the places of W. Jowitt and Martin on the side of Leeds.
The turf was in beautiful condition, and the visitors winning the toss, Willey set the ball rolling for Walkley, against the wind. The ball was at once taken into the home quarters, and Boothroyd was within an ace of scoring for Leeds, but Bentley, the Walkley custodian, got rid of the leather just in time to save the downfall of his goal.
The visitors then obtained two corners in rapid succession, but Jowitt failed to obtain any advantage from them. Eadon responded with a run on the right for Walkley, and had a shy at goal, and Wilmot in trying to kick the ball away put it through his own posts, thus making the first score for Walkley. This roused the visitors, and they pressed the Walkleyites very hard, until at last they succeeded in equalising matters.
Soon afterwards Walkley had another fine chance of scoring, but Eadon missed his kick, and then two corners fell to them, but nothing accrued from either. Half-time was then called, each side having so far obtained one goal.
On resumption, it was thought that Walkley, with the wind in their favour, would have matters their own way. Boothroyd hereabouts made a grand run on the right, but he was stopped by the Walkley backs before he got really dangerous. The home eleven were now having all the best of the play, and it took Bradley, the Leeds custodian, all his time to keep his goal clear. Walkley now obtained a corner, which W. Bentley directed to Willey, and he making a short dribble registered the second goal for Walkley, amid hearty cheers.
On restarting Leeds tried hard to score, and obtained a corner kick, but it proved futile, and then time was called, leaving Walkley victorious by two goals to one. Helliwell, Willey, Eadon, W. Bentley, and the two Hobsons played best for Walkley, whilst Wilmot, Shipham, G. M. Abbey, Hirst, and Boothroyd excelled for Leeds.
The following were the teams: Walkley. J. W. Bentley (goal), J. H. Helliwell. H. Powell, E. Brayshaw, W. Hobson, F. Lee, Pollard, W. Bentley, D. Willey, H. Eadon, and H. Hobson. Leeds. W. Bradley (goal), H. Wilmot, R. Jowitt, W. Hutchinson, F. Shipham, S. Abbey, G. M. Abbey, T. Hirst, T. A. Coope, West, and E. Boothroyd.
Umpires: Messrs. H. W. Bentley and J. Hudson. No referee was appointed.